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The Making of the Best-Known Bat in Baseball, and Pop Culture

From | A German immigrant family opened a wood-turning business on the Ohio River in 1856. J.F. Hillerich wanted to manufacture traditional products, like butter churns. His son Bud, a sports lover, wanted to make baseball bats. Today, the company, now called Hillerich and Bradsby, is world famous. P.J. Shelley works at its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. P.J. SHELLEY: "We make 2,500 bats a day, on average. During peak production, around spring training time, we can make as many as 5,000 bats a day. We make 1.8 million wood bats here every year. Fortunately for us, the young son prevailed and we're not making butter churns any longer." Hillerich and Bradsby makes the Louisville Slugger, a favorite of baseball players for more than a century. Baseball great Jackie Robinson used this bat. P.J. SHELLEY: "When people think of baseball bats or especially, certainly wood baseball bats, they're thinking of a Louisville Slugger." The name Louisville Slugger has appeared in books, movies and popular music. Carrie Underwood sings of hitting a boyfriend's car with one in her song "Before He Cheats." Danny Luckett has worked at Hillerich and Bradsby for 40 years. In the past, the company could produce a hand-made bat in 15 minutes. With computers, it now takes only a few seconds. Every bat must pass Luckett's inspection before it leaves the factory. The company keeps 9,000 copies of its most famous bats. DANNY LUCKETT: "Well, yeah, right here in hand's reach is actually the model that we used to make Babe Ruth's bat. This was the model that they used when Babe Ruth would order his bats. They would come and get this out of the model room, figure out what weight he wanted, figure out what weight it took to make the bats, and turn his bats off of that one." Thousands of baseball stars have signed business deals with Hillerich and Bradsby over the years. The company has permission to sell copies of their bats to less famous players. Baseball players at all skill-levels use lots of bats during a season. DANNY LUCKETT: "Oh, everyday players will probably go anywhere from, uh, 12 to 14, 15 dozen bats in a season. That's counting batting practice and whatever. They get bats -- when they get them, they go through them and pick out the ones they want for the game. They pick out the ones they want for batting practice. And they pick out the ones that they want to sign and sell to their friends or whatever." As a result, Luckett never has to worry about staying busy. I'm Shirley Griffith.
Length: 03:13


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